Reader John S. writes in:
We love our house in DC and proximity to the city center. The issue I’m most plagued by is traffic on our main road. Perhaps a planning fluke (or a bunch of them), but a series of decisions by the city turned the road into not only a major commuting road but also a truck route.
Such is life sometimes, right. But, cars and trucks speed like crazy — busy is fine, but speeding makes all the cars louder and makes me seriously cautious about letting my kids out the front door.
I’ve been chasing the city about the possibility of a speed camera, but only because I cannot for the life of me figure out how to request relining the street with features (bike lane, parking lane, stop signs, small median, what have you) that would naturally encourage drivers to cool it.
Proper lines and nudges is really the right way to go, but I’m blanking on who to contact.
Also, how can we encourage collaboration between groups facing similar issues around the city? (I know from online searching that neighborhoods in other quadrants have the same problems we do, and it might be interesting to think about how to unify advocacy for better treatment all over our fair city). Maybe some kind of cross-ANC collaboration?
John, that's a great question.
Let's start with your local neighborhood. With things like traffic calming, a lot of people at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) would like to do more of these projects but are afraid of community backlash. They'll look to your local Advisory Neighborhood Commission for input.
ANCs are elected, volunteer councils where each person represents about 2,000 residents. (You know this, but some of our readers don't, so I'll elaborate anyway). You can find your ANC by looking up your address here and then finding where it says Single Member District. The first number and letter of the SMD is your ANC; search Google for that and you can find its website, if it has one, and a list of all commissioners including yours.
Ask your commissioner to propose a resolution in the ANC about traffic calming. Here are some good resolutions from ANC 5E and ANC 7D which include specific requests for traffic calming in those neighborhoods. Talk to your neighbors to ask them to make the same request.
Your commissioner may be able to help you connect to someone at DDOT who works on other projects in your neighborhood, and might be interested in following up.
If you don't get a good response from your commissioner, consider running for ANC yourself! All of the commissioners are chosen in non-partisan elections in November. This page has election information. As of this writing it's from 2016, but you can get the idea of what you have to do. Basically, you just need to get 25 registered voters in your SMD to sign your petition to get on the ballot, and then go meet your neighbors to ask them to vote for you. With the districts so small, often only one person runs for a seat!
Also, talk to your councilmember. You happen to be in Ward 3, which means your member, Mary Cheh, is also oversight chair of transportation. But no matter what ward you live in, your councilmember has constituent service people who want to help. They hear nonstop from people who just want more parking — they need to hear from many residents about other transportation needs.
You can also reach out to the Pedestrian Advisory Council and Bicycle Advisory Council. These two committees, also composed of volunteers, have individual reps for each ward and meet regularly with DDOT.
None of this is going to lead to change overnight. It's taken years to get changes to Florida Avenue NE, Maryland Avenue NE, Kenilworth Terrace in Parkside, and 15th/W/New Hampshire/Florida NW, all of which are sites where someone was killed, often on commuter and truck routes like yours. But, there have been changes. DC has a Vision Zero program which is proposing changes to intersections — especially ones with injuries or fatalities — though progress has been slow and there's much more to be done.
Nonetheless, sustained political pressure from neighborhoods has led to change, though it's slow.
As for ANC coordination, as a matter of fact Greater Greater Washington has been convening ANC commissioners who support our general values, like safer streets for people walking, biking, driving, and on transit and more housing and affordable housing for all. The group often talks about working with DDOT, the good and the bad.
For instance, we worked together to coordinate ANCs in support of a new 59 express-like bus which launched in January. Ten ANCs along the route in three wards all passed resolutions in support of the line. This was very persuasive for Mayor Bowser and her budget team.
Readers, if you're an ANC commissioner who wants to participate, get in touch.
A lot of residents and officials read Greater Greater Washington. Consider writing a post for us about your experience as you go through the process of advocating. Finally, you can help Greater Greater Washington keep shining a light on these issues and doing things like convening ANC commissioners by supporting us in our reader drive.
Readers, what else would you suggest to John? Have you advocated for traffic calming in your community?